Kansas Jayhawks: Ben Heeney Ninth on ESPN’s Top-25 Big 12 List


Nov 8, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks linebacker Ben Heeney (31) celebrates a missed field goal by the Iowa State Cyclones in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Kansas won the game 34-14. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

We all know how good Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney was during his Kansas career.

His 334 tackles, five sacks, and four interceptions in basically three seasons of playing time at KU need no explanation. His beard is, well, awesome. He was clearly the best Jayhawk this past year, and is projected to be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft.

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Heeney landing in the ninth spot on ESPN’s Top-25 Big 12 Conference Players’ list seems to be the right fit. They aren’t going to name someone from a team that won exactly one conference game as a top-five player, and five of the eight in front of him have gaudy offensive numbers that fans and media drool over. It still makes him the third-best defensive player in the Big 12 according to ESPN, behind Texas’ Malcolm Brown, and TCU’s Paul Dawson. Not bad for a guy who had eight total tackles his freshman season.

However, what about some deserving Jayhawks who didn’t make the list?

Kansas’ JaCory Shephard, meanwhile, surfaced as one of the top cover corners in the conference for an underrated Jayhawks defense.

Cornerback Jacory Shephard is the most glaring omission– and ESPN thought the same thing. He was listed as one of five possible “snubs” from the list.

According to ESPN’s Jake Trotter, Shephard emerged quite well during his senior season.

“Kansas’ JaCory Shephard, meanwhile, surfaced as one of the top cover corners in the conference for an underrated Jayhawks defense. Shepherd was fourth in the country with 18 pass breakups.”

Sep 20, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks cornerback JaCorey Shepherd (24) intercepts a pass intended for Central Michigan Chippewas wide receiver Corey Willis (82) in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Kansas won the game 24-10. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

What probably cost Shephard the most, was right in the middle of Trotter’s analysis — he played on an “underrated” defense, but one that no one outside of Lawrence looked at as any good.

While Michael Cummings, Jimmay Mundine, and Michael Reynolds all had nice seasons, let’s face it, these lists come down to stats (unless you are an offensive lineman), and theirs just did not match-up.

Cummings was a vast improvement over (insert any KU QB since Todd Reesing), but he didn’t play the first three games, and finished 1,999 yards and 21 TDs behind the number one ranked player on the list, TCU’s Trevon Boykin.

Mundine, considered by most to be the first or second-best tight end in the conference, really didn’t come along until the second-third of the season. His 45 receptions, 584 yards, and three scores were nothing to sneeze at, but they weren’t all-world either.  To make this list they would had to have been, as a grand total of zero tight ends made it.

Reynolds, a linebacker, may have almost as big of a gripe as Shephard. The senior led the conference in forced fumbles with five, was tied for fourth in tackles for a loss, and finished fifth in sacks, with seven. It mostly likely came down to the fact he didn’t have name recognition. Also, players like Baylor’s Shawn Oakman, and Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah, who were 11th and 13th on the list, were also top-five in multiple categories.

Did a few other Jayhawks have nice seasons? Sure, but none of them could really make a case for this Top-25 team. However, there are a few who you could see in the next year or two.

Corey Avery, RB — The freshman had 631 yards and five scores, while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. His best game was in the win against Iowa St., where he rushed for 103 yards and a score.

Michael Cummings, QB — Sure, nine passing TDs and 1,715 yards isn’t going to scare anybody, but his numbers aren’t so bad if you dig deep. Cumming’s had a five game stretch once he became comfortable as the starter, and averaged 284.2 yards per game, while throwing for seven scores, and running for four more. This was all while adjusting to a new role, and interim head coach.

Others who could have possibly made the list next year if they weren’t leaving the team or graduating: Nigel King, WR; Isaiah Johnson, S.

While these lists don’t mean much other than some bragging rights, there are always players left off who could have made the cut. It’s a good thing Heeney landed where he did though, because Jayhawk Nation may have come after Trotter and the rest of the ESPN staff if he didn’t.

So, now that it’s out, let’s here your thoughts on the list?

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